Singapore Day organizers in Sydney were accused of racism after Caucasians were allegedly barred from the event attended by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean on Saturday.
The event held at the Domain adjoining the Royal Botanic Gardens was organized by the Overseas Singaporean Unit (OSU), a directorate under the National Population and Talent Division of the Prime Minister’s Office.
About 6,200 Singaporeans showed up for the event where hawkers were flown in from Singapore, reported Channel NewsAsia.
Singapore Day is for Singaporeans only, said the official I♥Sg website. “Singapore Day aims to bring a slice of home to Singaporeans abroad so as to emotionally connect them back to Singapore,” it added. DPM Teo urged those present to stay connected to Singapore.
Anthony Sim, who attended the event, said it was heart-warming to see such a large gathering of Singaporeans and added, “ There were no PRCs, India Indians, Bangla or Pinoys to annoy us.”
“Driving home, I was struck by guilt,” wrote Sim. “The Singapore government must have put a lot of thought and spent a huge amount to organize this event. And overseas Singaporeans do not pay tax nor contribute to its local economy, so why are we deserving of such a generous gesture that would have never been given when we were living in Singapore?”
But seriously, is Singapore Day supposed to be racist/discriminatory?
— Joyce Chng (JDamask) (@jolantru) October 15, 2013
“Irate people phoned radio station 2GB talkback host Ben Fordham to complain that white people had been turned away in droves,” reported The Telegraph.
Royal Botanic Gardens acting executive director Brett Summerell said the event had created concern and he would consider whether it would be appropriate for the park to have any further association with the event organizers.
“My understanding was it was a private event and they paid a fee to hire out the area,” he said.
“We had initial concerns over people not being let in but they had told us only people would only be turned away if it reached full capacity or they didn’t pre-register online.”
“Obviously it has created a bit of community concern and that is enough for me to review it and see if it’s appropriate for the Botanic Gardens to be involved with them in the future,” he said.
A man who identified himself as “James” told the radio station 2GB that he and his father were turned away because they were not Singaporean, reported ninemsn.
In conversation with host Ben Fordham, James said he went with his father hoping to enjoy some “authentic Singaporean food” but were not allowed to attend the event.
“We were just stunned and angry that this had happened to us in a public space in the middle of Sydney,” James told 2GB.
If it was a private event, it should have been held in a hotel and not in a public park funded with taxpayers’ money, he said.